Video game and DVD trade-in specialist CEX was one of many high street chains to re-open in England this week - but as Eurogamer previously reported, some staff have been concerned for their safety at work, as well as that of their customers.
Those worries have continued over the past couple of days, as CEX shops opened their doors to the public. Eurogamer has seen images of homemade-looking perspex protection screens at tills, and heard from staff being told to sand down the sharp edges of this "flimsy" plastic themselves.
This image, shared publicly by the unofficial @CEXstaff Twitter account, gives an example:
Speaking to Eurogamer anonymously in order to protect their jobs, CEX staff at several branches said that it was in some cases being left up to individual franchisees to set local store rules, in place of stricter guidance from head office.
In particular, there's concern amongst staff that stores are operating with no reduction in opening hours - needed to enable longer periods of cleaning (something high street rival GAME is doing in many branches). In response, some shops have set a limit per customer on trade-ins to ensure staff have time to try and sanitise the piles of DVDs and games arriving in store.
Last week, Eurogamer reported on plans by CEX to re-open shops without the same 72-hour quarantine on traded stock as GAME. CEX staff were alarmed to hear there would be no restrictions on customer browsing, and concerned about the ability to remain socially distant when positioned by the door to limit customer numbers.
But today CEX has at last responded after I sent further questions regarding the company's decision not to limit store hours, and after photos of its till protection were circulated on social media.
On store opening hours, CEX said it had opened without reductions to try and spread customer demand as much as possible, rather than limit it to a particular window - but, promisingly, that it would "likely" now be looking at changes to this.
"We are two days into reopening and will continue to adjust operations according to need," a CEX spokesperson told me. "Based on prior experience in other countries, we have worked to spread the re-opening surge in demand (seen across retail in England on Monday) throughout the day, rather than funnel customers into reduced opening hours, which can lead to longer queues, customer frustration and pressure on our teams when turning people away mid afternoon.
"This is all driven by safety. We will continue to adjust opening hours in line with needs, changes are likely and customers can get up to date info at webuy.com/stores."
Regarding the till screens, CEX said they were "fit for purpose" and that the chain had "not had feedback that the screens are sharp".
"We have an internal forum for colleagues to share feedback on Covid-19 related matters," a CEX spokesperson continued. "Feedback is welcome from colleagues across our corporate and franchise operations and can be fully anonymous if colleagues wish. Feedback is shared with Support Centre teams across the business including the Board and Operations Director.
"Based on our feedback forum, a small number of colleagues have expressed a wish to have further protection (in addition to the screens, gloves, face masks, wipes and sanitiser) and we are now offering a full face shield to any colleague that wishes to have one. We continue to listen to our teams via this internal forum and urge any colleagues with concerns to feedback here so we can have a constructive dialogue and promptly address any concerns."
CEX concluded with a reminder that the chain's Drop and Go service, which has been trialled in various shops, was rolling out now. This lets you register products you wish to trade-in online before visiting a store, then receive the money for them deposited straight into your account.